President Donald Trump yesterday invoked the Defense Production Act to reduce supply-chain problems for certain manufacturers to produce ventilators.
In the executive order, the president gave the secretaries of the departments of Health & Human Services and Homeland Security the power to secure materials for General Electric (NYSE:GE), Hillrom (NYSE:HRC) , Medtronic (NYSE:MDT), ResMed (NYSE:RMD), Philips (NYSE:PHG) and Vyaire Medical.
Ventilator supply matters because doctors treating people with COVID-19 have had to make life-and-death decisions about who with severe cases gets the devices and who does not. Trump had already taken the extraordinary step of using the Korean War–era Defense Production Act to make a General Motors and Ventec Life Systems partnership produce more of the devices, and there are even university researchers working on controversial DIY solutions.
GE and Ford Motor Company are working together to produce ventilators. Ford said this week that it will start producing 50,000 of the critical-care machines in 100 days at its Michigan plant, and 30,000 a month thereafter as needed. Separately, GE announced last week that it is doubling its production capacity for ventilators and expanding its Madison, Wis., production line to 24-hour operation.
A spokesman for Hillrom told MassDevice in an email that the company is not experiencing material disruption in its global supply chain and that it is working “full steam ahead” ramping up production at its California factory.
“As previously announced, Hillrom has already begun increasing production of its Life2000 non-invasive ventilator five-fold at our facility in California, all of which is allocated for the United States,” said Hillrom spokesman Howard Karesh. “We appreciate the opportunity to work with the administration to alleviate supply-chain pressures and deliver these life-saving devices to patients.”
Medtronic appreciates “this very focused effort to increase patient access to this life-saving technology,” spokesman Ben Petok said in an email. “We are doing everything that can be done and should be done to increase production, but in the near term, demand will unfortunately outstrip supply.”
Petok also said Medtronic is significantly ramping up production of its PB 980 and PB 560 ventilators.
“Today, Medtronic ships more than 300 ventilators per week to customers in the highest-risk, highest-need locations in the world,” the company added. “By the end of April, we will manufacture more than 400 ventilators per week. By the end of May, we expect to manufacture more than 700 ventilators per week. We are targeting the end of June to be making more than 1,000 ventilators per week.”
Other companies covered under the new order did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Respiratory device companies that belong to the medtech trade group AdvaMed have boosted ventilators production to 2,000–3,000 per week — and expect to soon reach 5,000–7,000 ventilators per week, the organization said this week. Last year, the same companies were making only about 700 ventilators per week for domestic distribution.
Today, AdvaMed CEO Scott Whitaker made no mention of that sentiment.
“We understand the purpose behind the president’s invocation of the Defense Production Act to ensure that the supply chain for ventilators remains intact and strong. As our industry mobilizes 24/7, working at max capacity to produce the medical equipment health care providers and patients need, we welcome further collaboration with the federal government to help ensure ventilator manufacturers are able to get the materials and component parts they need,” Whitaker said in an email statement. “We sent a letter last week to FEMA seeking guidance and direction on the allocation and distribution side of ventilator manufacturing, so we look forward to working with federal officials on this process.”
AdvaMed member companies making ventilators include Draeger, GE Healthcare, Hillrom, Medtronic, Philips, ResMed and Vyaire Medical. AdvaMed’s March 25–31 survey found companies adding entire new manufacturing lines, repurposing existing manufacturing lines for less essential equipment, training and reorienting engineers, and adding new employees to meet the demand.
This article has been updated with comments from Medtronic and AdvaMed.